The beauty of wok-cooking lies in its versatility and speed. This pair of recipes start with a chilled noodle dish, originating in China’s Sichuan province, that can be prepared almost entirely in advance; its flavorful sauce is balanced between hot, sour and savory, and the tingling citrus aroma of Sichuan peppercorns. It’s the perfect dish for a picnic or party. The second is a Korean potato stir-fry that comes together in minutes. Shredding and washing the potatoes before stir-frying gives them a uniquely crunchy, almost cucumber-like texture that sets them apart from western-style rösti or hash browns.
Sichuan-style cold noodles (pictured top)
Prep 10 minutes
cooking 5 min
For the noodles
450g fresh wheat noodles
Peanut oilor other neutral oil
For the dressing room
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 medium garlic clovespeeled and roughly chopped
2½cm thumb fresh gingerpeeled
4 spring onionsthinly sliced
1 tsp dried hot chillili flakes (I like Sichuan er jing tiao golden korean gochugaru)
1 star anise
60ml peanut oilor other neutral oil
3 tbsp light soy saucemore more to taste
2 tbsp Chinkiang black rice vinegaror rice vinegar, plus extra to taste
2 tsp sugar
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles, stir with chopsticks to separate them, and cook according to the packet instructions until the noodles are just cooked through and retain a springy bite. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer, chill with cold running water, and toss with a couple of teaspoons of oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
For the dressing, grind the Sichuan peppercorns to a powder in a mortar. Add the garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt and pound into a paste. Add the spring onions (reserving some to serve), chillies and star anise, and stir with a fork or chopsticks to combine. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Heat the oil in a wok until smoking-hot, then pour directly on top of the paste mixture. Stir immediately with chopsticks or a fork. It should sizzle rapidly and release its aroma. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and a tablespoon of water until dissolved.
When ready to serve, remove and discard the star anise from the dressing. Combine the noodles and dressing in a serving bowl, toss to combine, and season with more soy sauce and vinegar to taste. Garnish with the reserved spring onions and serve immediately with chilli oil on the side.
Korean stir-fried shredded potatoes
Prep 10 minutes
cooking 5 min
serves 4 as a small side dish
1 large white or Yukon Gold potato (about 225g)
2 tbsp peanut oilor other neutral oil
½ small yellow onion (about 60g), thinly sliced
½ medium carrot (about60g), peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds (optional)
salt and black pepper
Peel the potato and cut it into fine matchsticks. Rinse in several changes of cold water until the water is completely clear. Spin dry the potato in a salad spinner or blot dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Heat a wok over a high heat until lightly smoking. Add the oil, swirl to coat, then add the potatoes and stir-fry for two to three minutes, until translucent and just beginning to turn pale golden brown in spots.
Add the onions and carrots and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until both are lightly softened. Add the sesame oil and sesame seeds (if using), season to taste, then toss to combine, transfer to a serving plate or bowl and serve.
Recipes extracted from The Wok: Recipes and Techniques, by J. Kenji López-Alt, published by WW Norton at £36. To buy one for £31.32, visit guardianbookshop.com